Count on two woodcock per person if you can spare it. One will whet an appetite, but leave you wanting for more. Be sure to preheat your oven fully before putting the birds in, otherwise you will crisp neither the bacon nor the woodcock's skin properly. Serve this with grilled polenta, over mashed potatoes, or toast.
Course: Main Course
Author: Hank Shaw
2to 4 whole woodcock,plucked and gutted
1tablespoonlard or butter
2slicesbacon,cut in half
Fleur de sel or other finishing salt
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Most ovens will require a solid 30 minutes to get to this temperature. As the oven is heating, take the birds out of the fridge. If you want to truss the birds, tie some kitchen twine around their legs. It is traditional to leave the head on the woodcock and jam the beak through the legs to truss it. I think this is weird.
In an oven-proof frying pan, heat the lard over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the bacon pieces and fry until halfway done. Remove the bacon and set aside.
Add the woodcock and fry for 1 minute on each side -- don't fry the breast. Remove the birds and take the pan off the heat. Pour off all but a thin sheen of oil.
When the oven is good and hot, arrange the woodcock in the frying pan breast side up and use pieces of the celery stick to keep them from falling over. Lay a piece of bacon over the breast of each bird and cook in the oven for 6 minutes.
Remove the bacon, and continue cooking the birds for another 9 to 11 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the fleur de sel. Let them rest on a cutting board as you make the Cumberland sauce.